South is ‘hot’ and Houston is No. 1

RICE (US) — The city of Houston added 1.2 million people in the past decade—an increase of more than 123,000 per year—more than any of the nation’s 366 metropolitan areas.

The ability to capitalize on its closeness to Latin America, its emergence as a major destination for immigrants from around the world, the area’s pro-business policies, low cost of living, significant job growth, and location were key to they city’s emergence in the No. 1 spot.

“Houston’s growth represents more people than the population growth in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas combined during the past decade,” says Michael Emerson, professor of sociology and co-director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University.


“Houston’s growth alone accounts for more people than the nation’s 14 smallest metropolitan areas combined. It is more than the number of people who live in the Buffalo metropolitan area, and more than in the New Orleans metropolitan area—and it is more than the number of people in 322 of the nation’s 366 metropolitan areas.”

The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area grew by just 21,000 fewer people over the decade than Houston. Austin grew by almost 467,000 people and San Antonio by about 431,000, putting the four Texas cities in the top 13 metropolitan areas for population growth.

Only 13 other metropolitan areas in the country have as many people as these four metropolitan areas added to their populations over the decade.

“As of 2011, the population increases in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan areas have catapulted the two cities into the No. 5 (Houston) and No. 4 (Dallas-Fort Worth) largest metropolitan areas in the United States,” Emerson says.

The only other metropolitan area to grow by more than 1 million people over the 2000-2010 decade was Atlanta, which is the nation’s ninth largest metro.

The several-decades long trend of U.S. population growth being concentrated in the South and the Southwest continues and, is intensifying, Emerson says. Of the 15 metropolitan areas that added the most people, only New York (No. 7) and Seattle (No. 15) are not in the South or the Southwest.

“A significant portion of the population growth in these Southern and Southwestern metropolitan areas is not due to the relocation of Americans from colder climates but to the influx of immigrants moving directly into these Southern and Southwestern metropolitan areas,” Emerson says.

“This is the secret of Houston’s phenomenal growth over the past decade. It comes not primarily from relocating or retiring Americans but from first-generation immigrants and from their children born in Houston.”

The 30 U.S. metropolitan areas with the greatest population growth for 2000-2010 are:

1.      Houston (1,231,393)
2.      Dallas-Fort Worth (1,210,229)
3.      Atlanta (1,020,879)
4.      Riverside, Calif. (970,030)
5.      Phoenix (941,011)
6.      Washington, D.C. (785,987)
7.      Las Vegas (575,504)
8.      New York (574,107)
9.      Miami (557,071)
10.    Orlando, Fla. (489,850)
11.    Austin, Texas (466,526)
12.    Los Angeles (463,210)
13.    San Antonio (430,805)
14.    Charlotte, N.C. (427,590)
15.    Seattle (395,931)
16.    Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla. (387,246)
17.    Denver (364,242)
18.    Chicago (362,789)
19.    Sacramento, Calif. (352,270)
20.    Raleigh/Cary, N.C. (333,419)
21.    Minneapolis/St. Paul (311,027)
22.    Portland, Ore. (298,128)
23.    San Diego (281,480)
24.    Philadelphia (278,196)
25.    Nashville, Tenn. (278,145)
26.    Indianapolis (231,137)
27.    Columbus, Ohio (224,217)
28.    Jacksonville, Fla. (222,846)
29.    San Francisco/Oakland (211,651)
30.    McAllen, Texas (205,306)

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